FEATURED POST

Why Texas’ ‘death penalty capital of the world’ stopped executing people

Image
Since the Supreme Court legalized capital punishment in 1976, Harris County, Texas, has executed 126 people. That's more executions than every individual state in the union, barring Texas itself.
Harris County's executions account for 23 percent of the 545 people Texas has executed. On the national level, the state alone is responsible for more than a third of the 1,465 people put to death in the United States since 1976.
In 2017, however, the county known as the "death penalty capital of the world" and the "buckle of the American death belt" executed and sentenced to death a remarkable number of people: zero.
This is the first time since 1985 that Harris County did not execute any of its death row inmates, and the third year in a row it did not sentence anyone to capital punishment either.
The remarkable statistic reflects a shift the nation is seeing as a whole.
“The practices that the Harris County District Attorney’s Office is following are also signifi…

Exonerated Former Death Row Man Calls Feds to Probe Wrongful Convictions in New Orleans

John Thompson
John Thompson
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A man exonerated after 14 years on Louisiana’s death row for a murder he didn’t commit is leading a call for the U.S. Justice Department to investigate practices at the New Orleans district attorney’s office and look for other wrongful convictions and civil rights violations.

John Thompson’s complaint calls for special attention to cases prosecuted by Jim Williams, an assistant prosecutor in the 1980s under then-District Attorney Harry Connick.

Thompson and other advocates for criminal justice reform say state and local officials have failed to investigate and remedy abuses they attribute to Williams.

Thompson spoke Tuesday at a news conference In New Orleans.

“I was a victim,” Thompson said of the prosecutor who helped put him on death row. “He tried to kill me.”

His petition to federal officials cites five other death penalty cases prosecuted by Williams: two in which sentences were commuted to life; two in which the convicts were exonerated and one in which a new trial has been ordered.

Williams, now a private attorney in the suburb of Gretna, denied withholding evidence favorable to Thompson in a brief emailed statement.

“To make the record clear for the very last time, I never withheld any favorable evidence in either of John Thompson’s criminal trials that I prosecuted,” Williams’ statement said.

Connick, who retired in 2003, has long defended his 30-year tenure as district attorney against allegations of prosecutorial misconduct in Thompson’s and other cases. He declined to comment Tuesday on Thompson’s letter.

Current District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, whose office is criticized in the letter for “failure to identify and review the integrity of the conviction for each and every individual prosecuted by Williams,” did not respond to an emailed request for comment to his public information office.

“Wrongful convictions are not limited to New Orleans and cases where prosecutors disregarded the law are not limited to New Orleans,” said Emily Maw, an attorney and director of the Innocence Project New Orleans. However, she said the problem is serious in New Orleans. She said her office’s work over the last 15 years has resulted in 28 people being freed or exonerated in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Tuesday’s complaint also notes the case of Curtis Lee Kyles, who won a new trial in a 1984 death case after prosecutors withheld information.

Thompson’s case drew national attention in 2011 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided 5-4 to overturn a $14 million judgment he’d won against Connick’s office, Williams and others for his wrongful conviction.

According to the court record, Thompson was first convicted in 1985 in an unrelated attempted armed robbery. That conviction proved important at his murder trial. Fearing the conviction would be used to challenge his credibility, Thompson chose not to testify in his own defense. Then, prosecutors noted the armed robbery attempt as they argued for the death penalty in the murder case.

Later, it was found that prosecutors under Connick had not disclosed the existence of a swatch of victim clothing stained with the would-be robber’s blood, or a test showing the blood to be type B.

Thompson, who has type O blood, eventually was exonerated in the robbery and the murder.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a majority opinion rejecting the idea that the district attorney’s office should be punished for failing to provide specific training to prosecutors on evidence that must be turned over to the defense. A strong dissent from Ruth Bader Ginsburg held that Thompson was entitled to the award “for the gross, deliberately indifferent, and long-continuing violation of his fair trial right.”

Source: Afro, Kevin McGill (AP), August 3, 2016

⚑ | Report an error, an omission; suggest a story or a new angle to an existing story; send a submission; recommend a resource; contact the webmaster, contact us: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com.


Opposed to Capital Punishment? Help us keep this blog up and running!


"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Most Viewed (Last 7 Days)

North Carolina death row becoming frail, aging

Trump calls for death penalty for anyone who kills a police officer

California: Riverside County leads U.S. in death penalty sentences, but hasn’t executed anyone in 39 years

Bali jailbreak: US inmate escapes notorious Kerobokan prison

Georgia executes Emmanuel Hammond

Why Texas’ ‘death penalty capital of the world’ stopped executing people

Law of Parties: Prosecutor who put Jeff Wood on Texas’ death row asks for clemency

Iran: Two Prisoners Hanged In Public

Execution date set for convicted killer in Alabama who is terminally ill

Iraq hangs 38 members of Daesh, al-Qaeda